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What are "Smart Crossings"?

EACH day there are on average 20 incidents at pedestrian crossings in the UK, according to the consultants at Road Safety Analysis and Transport Research Laboratory.

Now, UK insurance company Direct Line and tech firm Umbrellium have developed what they hope is a safer and responsive "smart crossing", as seen in this video.

Above: A full size working prototype of Umbrellium and Direct Line’s crossing has been mocked-up in south London (image courtesy of Umbrellium).

“The pedestrian crossings that we use every day are about 50 to 60 years old - they were designed for a different idea of a city,” says Ysman Hasque, founding partner at Umbrellium.

The new crossing is monitored by cameras and sensors that will be able to detect oncoming pedestrian and vehicles, and respond to the situation. This means widening the crossing when a large number of people are using it, tracking pedestrian speeds and adjusting signals to cars accordingly, and even flashing red if a pedestrian unexpectedly steps on the road.

Above: The Starling crossing uses sensors and cameras to respond to traffic situations in real time (image courtesy of Umbrellium).

A full-scale prototype of Umbrellium’s Starling Crossing, short for Stigmergic Adaptive Responsive Learning, has been installed in south London. It has been engineered to support the weight of the cars, and remain slip and glare free in Britain’s ever-changing weather. In order to increase its user-friendliness, the crossing uses today’s familiar markings and colours.

Above: The crossing uses familiar and easy to understand graphics (image courtesy of Umbrellium).

The responsive crossing has been inspired by stigmergy, a biological principle where ants lay down pheromone paths for other members of their colony to follow. So not only will smart crossings of the future be able to react to current road conditions, they would “learn” over time and guide pedestrians to safer crossing points, managing traffic in a more fluid way during peak times for different users.

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